Kaeng zom sour curry, featuring shrimp or freshwater fish, is one dish that Pam Real Thai does particularly well.
Yes there really is a Pam, and nine years ago she started a restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen called Pam Real Thai Food that quickly rose to be one of the best Thais in Manhattan, which is really saying something, since Hell’s Kitchen is teeming with Thais.
Kissed by fish sauce, the green papaya yum is as good as when the Pam Thai Food first opened: a spare, light take on the Isaan standard.
I went back to see how the place is faring lately in an overcrowded field, as Thais have gradually replaced Chinese neighborhood restaurants as the prime places for after-work carryout.
I’m happy to say, the quality remains high, and the range of dishes covered continues to be great. Chef and founder Pam Panyasiri was born and raised in Chiang Mai, in the northwest of the sinuous country, next to China but also next to the Isaan region. Her specialties can be described as northern Thai, and include a fine papaya salad, the crunch provided by toasted peanuts and dried shrimp.
Kaeng zom sour curry derives its flavor from a good shot of tart tamarind paste and lots of fish sauce, with none of the creaminess conferred by coconut milk in other Thai curries. The menu recommends it for anyone watching their weight; I’d recommend it for anyone that liked Sour Patch Kids when they were in elementary school. Shrimp or poached fish go equally well in the broth, which has a peppery zing to it.
Sided with lime juice and pickled vegetables, kway tiow establishes a crunch gradient between its boiled and fried noodles.
There’s always a page of specials, and from it my friend and I chose Kway Tiow, a rich coconut soup with wheat noodles inside, and fried noodles on top — which become progressively soggier, in a good way, so that the texture’s always changing as the noodles sink into the soup. In the chef’s home region, Chinese-leaning noodle dishes have particular prominence.
The three dishes, with tax and tip, came out to about $35, and we took leftovers home. 404 West 49th Street, 212-333-7500
Nine-year-old Pam Real Thai is a fixture on West 49th Street, and a particular resource for theatergoers.